When raising a child, parents tend to focus on providing the essential survival basics and quality education with the purpose of creating the best opportunities that could allow their offspring to develop into an independent, accomplished adult.
Undoubtedly, these factors have a high impact on child’s growth if we were to look at the first two hierarchy needs proposed by Maslow’s pyramid (i.e. physiological and safety needs). Needless to say, in order to help a child reach a stable level of happiness, parents must ensure that the psychological needs are met with the same determination as the basic ones.
Subsequently to physiological and safety needs, Maslow proposed that an individual must feel loved, appreciated, acknowledged for their qualities and achievements. Such recognition should be received from family members when a child puts effort into accomplishing something no matter how big or small the goal may be. Since parents are primary caregivers and implicitly role models, they have a significant influence on child’s emotional stability. Often the child will search for appreciation and support from his parents, which is why it is highly important to pay close attention to your child’s actions and sincerely praise them.
The appraisal of children’s efforts will not only encourage them to overcome insecure feelings (i.e. fear, worry, sadness, etc.), but it will also build up their self-esteem. Secondly, through appraisal, a parent helps a child become aware of her/his potential, qualities and effects of her/his actions. Therefore, the better a child feels about himself and behaviour, the more confident s/he becomes about her/his abilities.
Nevertheless, difficulties may occur as humans learn through trial and error. It is more than likely that a child will face challenges when exploring the environment. In such moments, parental involvement is necessary more than ever as support and guidance will help the child maintain his self-confidence and learn new skills.
Therefore, it could be concluded that so far parents’ attention, involvement and affection play a pivotal role in building up a child’s happiness. But in order to be fully engaged with the little ones, parents themselves must be happy.
In the first years of life, children learn attitudes, behaviours, and emotional reactions through observational learning, which means that they are more likely to imitate than do what they are being told. As a result, parents do not only need to continuously invest quality time and attention in raising a happy child, but they must also become fully aware of their actions and reactions. So, if you want a calm, optimistic, and empathetic child, you must be the first one to set up the example. It will certainly benefit both of you.
However, the most challenging task for a parent is maintaining a balanced attitude when a child experiences episodes of anger or frustration. Although parenting can be difficult, it would be recommendable that parents take a deep breath, a moment to find their emotional equilibrium and understand the cause of child’s anger. As children grow up, they discover new emotions and as such, they need to be helped in understanding how to manage their emotions. For an adult, it may look as if the child overreacts, which it is true, but for a child who barely knows about the emotion s/he feels, the matter is very important. This is why it is essential that you allocate few moments to your child and discuss the issue, no matter how stressed or tired you may be.
Notice the word “discuss”? Discuss and not argue; discuss and not silent your child with food, electronics or toys. Through every conversation, a parent actually shows compassion and understanding towards child’s problem, a behaviour that s/he will apply when s/he will see somebody in a similar situation. Therefore, a child must learn to express his/her emotions, and acknowledge the fact that they are hurt rather than suppress the feeling.
Gradually, the child will learn how to verbalize his/her emotions as well as develop neural pathways for an emotionally intelligent brain. In fact, a child who acquires the ability to regulate his/her emotions will develop into an adult with healthy coping mechanism skills, which are imperative in preventing the development of depression, borderline personality disorder, substance-use
disorders, eating disorders, and a variety of other psychopathological symptoms.
We are aware that parenting is not always a smooth journey, but it surely is a way for both parents and children to discover and shape their skills. If you are looking for further guidance, Noel Janis-Norton has put together in her book some of the best solutions that could help families in raising happy children.